Free People of Color, Letters, Migration, Paternal Kin, Virginia

An Artis founding story.

A cousin sent me this undated letter a few days ago, asking if I knew anything about it. She is descended from my great-great-great-grandfather Adam Artis‘ brother Richard Artis. Her Richard is not one of the Richards listed to in the document. (There were several contemporaneous Richard Artises just in the Wayne-Greene-Wilson County corner, none of whom I can link to one another.) The family history recounted in the letter smacks of the apocryphal, but it is interesting, and I will try to follow up on it.


Free People of Color, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Photographs

A reunion.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 10.47.52 PM

And with that introductory email began my fruitful and thoroughly enjoyable correspondence with B.H., my third cousin, twice removed. Our common ancestor was Levisa (or Eliza) Hagans Seaberry, mother of Napoleon Hagans (B.H.’s great-grandfather) and Frances Seaberry Artis (my great-great-great-grandmother). In the spring of 2010, B.H. and I entered into a mutually beneficial exchange of information about our shared family. I had little information about Napoleon beyond what I’d found in census records and deeds, I’d lost track of his sons Henry and William, and I was completely unaware of his son, the accomplished Dr. Joseph H. Ward. He cued me into William S. Hagans‘ post-migration life in Philadelphia, shared amazing photographs and documents, and lead me to “discover” Joseph Ward’s early years. In turn, I introduced B.H. to Wayne and Wilson Counties and the lives of the Haganses, Wards and Burnetts before they recreated themselves up North.

This past weekend, I traveled to Detroit for — astonishingly — the first time ever. Our primary purpose was to take in the city’s rich street art culture, but I added an item to the top of the agenda — meeting B.H. Friday night, he and his wife treated us to dinner at an old and storied restaurant near the city’s Eastern Market, and Levisa’s children came full circle.

me and Bill

Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, Migration, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Anna J. Henderson Simmons.

Something brings me back to Anna J. Henderson Simmons. At no more than 20 years old, she left all the family she knew to follow her new husband 800 miles to Canada, where his Wayne County family had settled decades earlier.   It is hard to get a sense of Anna’s life. Her husband Montreville Simmons achieved a measure of success as a farmer in central Indiana, but evidence suggests that he was a difficult man to live with. Did she ever see her birth family again? Probably not, and evidence suggests that her children had an uncertain grasp on the facts of her early years.

Here’s what I know of my great-great-great-grandfather Lewis Henderson‘s sister:

In the 1860 census of Westbrooks, Sampson County, North Carolina, appear James Henderson, mulatto carpenter; wife Eliza; and four children, Anna J., Susan, Hepsie, and Alexander. Eliza (or Louisa) Armwood, daughter of John and Susan Armwood, was James’ second wife.

Ten years later, the family had moved about 20 miles east-southeast and appear in the 1870 census of Faisons, Duplin County: James Henderson, 52, mulatto farmer; wife Eliza; and children Ann, 17, Susan, 16, Hepsey, 14, Aleck, 13, John H., 11, Nancy, 6, and Betty, 3, plus James’ son James, 27, and boarders James Ammons and Thomas Cox. (Were the latter two relatives of either James or, more likely, Eliza/Louisa?)

The following spring, on 3 March 1871, Anna Henderson married Montraville Simmons, 19, son of Calvin and Hepsie Whitley Simmons, in Duplin County. The license lists Anna’s parents as James Henderson and Louisa Armwood. Montraville had been born in Wayne or Duplin County and migrated to Chatham, Kent County, Ontario, Canada with his family in the 1850s. After the death of his first wife, Victoria Brown, whom he married in Chatham in 1865, Montraville returned to North Carolina for a new spouse. (There’s a suspicious marriage on 16 April 1848 in Oakland, Michigan, between 23 year-old Montreville Simmons of North Carolina and Harriet Lucas of Richmond, Ohio. Was this yet another early marriage for Anna’s Montraville?)

Henderson Simmons

Duplin County, North Carolina, Marriage Register.

The family was captured in the 1881 census of Chatham, Kent County, Ontario, Canada: Montreville Simmons, 40, farmer; wife Annie, 29; and children Elizabeth, 8, Doctor T., 7, Susan M., 4, and Montreville, 2. All were born in the United States except Doctor and Montreville jr., who were born in Ontario, and all were Baptist. [Where in the U.S. was Susan born? Had Anna gone back to North Carolina? Or had the family lived some short period across the nearby border?]

Sometime in the next twenty years, the Simmonses cast their lot permanently as Americans. For reasons unknown, they settled near Logansport, Indiana, in rural Cass County north of Indianapolis. In the 1900 census of Eel township, on Park Avenue in Logansport, the census taker recorded farmer “Montville” Simmons, born April 1850, wife Anna, born March 1861, and sons James R., December 1879, Montville, June 1882, and Dock, December 1879. Montville and Anna were recorded as born in North Carolina; their sons in Canada. Montraville and Anna had been married 28 years and reported five of five children living. The family was described as black. [The evidence concerning the Simmons children is confusing. Census records name Elizabeth (born circa 1872), Doctor/Dock (born circa 1874), Susan M. (born circa 1877), James R. (born circa 1879), Montraville Jr. (born circa 1880) and Edward (born 1881.) However, records in Indiana indicate another daughter, Moncy, who died in 1942.]

Montraville Simmons was a successful farmer, but a life of material (if heavily mortgaged) comfort did not necessarily spell ease for Anna. Montraville’s name peppered the local paper regularly, as Pharos-Tribune reporters gleefully chronicled his clashes with neighbors and his personal peccadilloes.

Anna herself managed to stay out of print until 1905, when the ailing woman parachuted into a spat between her husband and his creditors. Headlines blared her surprising intervention, and it’s hard not to see Montraville’s hand as a puppet master in this 11th hour shenanigan.


Logansport Pharos Tribune, 22 December 1905. 

Sadly (she was only about 50 years old) but perhaps mercifully, within six months, Anna Henderson Simmons was dead. Her death certificate, which contains some curious errors, reported that Annie Simmons, married, died 16 Jun 1906 in Cass County, of Basedow’s disease [now known as Graves’, a disease of the thyroid]. She was born 2 February 1856 in North Carolina and was buried at Free Union Baptist in Irvin township, Howard County, Indiana, by Kroeger & Strain, funeral directors. The informant for the certificate was Montraville Simmons. The father or the son? I don’t know, but it’s hard to believe that either reported Anna as white, though that’s what the certificate notes. It’s less hard to believe that Montraville Jr. might have misreported his mother’s parents as James Harrison and Eliza Henderson. He, after all, had surely never met them. (And when he married Jessie Winslow in Cass County in 1903, he cited his mother’s maiden name as Anna Harrison.)

On 18 June, the Pharos Tribune ran a brief obituary:



Who were Anna Henderson Simmons’ legacies? Is there a lost branch of Hendersons in middle Indiana?

  • Elizabeth Simmons (circa 1872-??) probably died before adulthood. Or she is the same person as Moncy Simmons.
  • Moncy A. Simmons (1872-1942) married first Daniel Bassett, then Newton Palmer; no known children.
  • Doctor R. Simmons (27 November 1874-after 1951) married Fannie Gibson; no children.
  • Susan M. Simmons (circa 1877-1937) married Britton Bassett; two children, who died in infancy. She helped rear her brother Montraville’s son Harold.
  • James R. Simmons (circa 1879-aft. 1900) probably did in young adulthood; no children. Or, he is the same person as Edward Simmons.
  • Montraville Simmons Jr. (circa 1880-31 March 1910) married Jessie Winslow in 1903. His son Harold Simmons was born about 1904. On 7 October 1911, Jessie gave birth to Helen Elizabeth Simmons in Chicago and listed Montraville on Helen’s birth certificate, but he could not have been the child’s father. Similarly, in the 1920 census, Jessie Winslow Simmons, remarried to Earnest W. Griggs, attributes by inference two additional children to Montraville Jr., Frances (born 1913) and Alma (born 1916). Neither were his. Harold is mentioned in his aunt Moncy’s obituary, but does not regularly appear in census records.
  • Edward Simmons (24 November 1883-1936) married only after his parents’ deaths, but married four times in 20 years. He had no children.

In other words, improbable as it seems, Anna’s seven children produced a single grandchild, and he seems not to have any children. There are not, it seems, any Kokomo cousins.

Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Rights

No damages.

More times than I might have imagined, see here and here and here and here and here, members of my extended family have figured in litigation that made its way to the North Carolina Supreme Court. Here’s another such case:

William Hooks v. William T. Perkins, 44 NC 21 (1852).

In 1845, the Wayne County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions bound brothers Rufus Artis and Thomas Artis to William Hooks to serve as apprentices until age 21. At the time of their indentures, Rufus’ age was reported as 7 and Thomas’ as 18. In 1849, after the court determined that Thomas was, in fact, only 15 when apprenticed, a judge ordered his indenture amended to correct his true age. Hooks, apparently, never got around to it.  Meanwhile, William Perkins hired Thomas. Deprived of the young man’s labor, Hooks attempted to enforce the court order, and Perkins took up Thomas’ cause.  Arguing that Thomas was bound to serve him until his true age of 21 — regardless of the age listed on his indenture — Hooks sued Perkins for damages for the period from November 1848 to February 1849 during which Perkins would not turn Thomas over.  The state Supreme Court held that Hooks should have amended Thomas’ indenture to reflect his actual age at the time it expired, per the court order.  Having failed to do so, Hooks was not Thomas’ master when Perkins hired him and was not entitled to damages.

Notwithstanding the court’s findings, Rufus, 11, and Thomas Artis, 20, were listed in the household of farmer William Hooks, along with another apprentice, W.H. Hagins, 15, in the 1850 census of North Side of the Neuse, Wayne County. (William Perkins does not appear in the county’s census at all.)  Worse, by 1860, Rufus Artis had lost ground, as the census of Nahunta, Wayne County, lists him as a 17 year-old — rather than the 21 or 22 year-old he actually was — in Hooks’ household, along with Polly Hagans, 15, and Ezekiel Hagans, 13.  In other words, what Hooks could not get out of Thomas Artis, he appears to have extracted from his younger brother.

Rufus Artis eluded the census taker in 1870, but he was around. On Christmas Eve 1874, he married Harriet Farmer in Wayne County. The family appears in the 1880 census of Nahunta, Wayne County: Rufus Artis, 46, wife Harriet, 30, and daughters Hannah, 13, and Pennina, 9. The family lived very near a cluster of three other sets of extended Artis families descended from Vicey Artis, Celia Artis, and Vincent Artis, none of whom were not known to have been related. (Or, at least, not closely so.) In the 1900 census of Nahunta, Rufus and Harriet, their children grown and gone, shared their home with Harriet’s mother, 73 year-old Chanie Farmer. Daughter Pennina had married Curry Thompson, son of Edie Thompson, on 11 October 1893 in Wayne County. They had two daughters, Harriet (1895) and Appie (1896). On 10 January 1917, Harriet Thompson married John Henry Artis, born 1896 to Richard Artis and Susannah Yelverton Artis. Richard, of course, was the son of Solomon Williams and Vicey Artis, and the brother of my great-great-great-grandfather Adam T. Artis.

Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Greene County Artises.

By the early antebellum period, dozens of Artis families had drifted down from southern Virginia to form a large node in Wayne County. The 1840 census lists more than 40 Artis heads of household in that county. By contrast, there were never more than a handful of Artises recorded in neighboring Greene County in the antebellum era, and none at all before 1850. (This, of course, does not mean they were not there. Only that they did not qualify as heads of household.) Were the Greene County Artises an off-shoot of one of the many Wayne County Artis lines? Are they a single extended family? Were they all free prior to the Civil War? Or were some of them freedmen who adopted the surname of their free-born kin?

I’ve begun to pull together all sources of information about antebellum Artises in Greene County to try to find answers.


In 1850, clustered:

  • at #429, Vicy Artess, 40, and her children Zilpha, 22, Louis, 8, Jonah, 7, Jethro, 5, and Richard, 1.  Vicey Artis with her oldest daughter and youngest children.
  • at #431, Sylvany Artess, 36, and children Daniel, 7, Mitchel, 5, Meriah, 4, Gui, 2, and Penny, 3 months.  As detailed here, I believe Vicey and Sylvania Artis were sisters. White farmer John Lane, who likely apprenticed Sylvania’s children and enslaved their father Guy, was listed at #430.

In 1860, in Bull Head district:

  • at #25, James, 16, and Jetherroe Artis, 14, farmhands, with Silas Bryant.  These boys appear to be Vicey’s sons Jonah and Jethro and have followed their siblings into service as Bryant’s. Vicey herself is listed a few miles over the line in Wayne County with daughter Charity and Charity’s children, an unnamed one year-old “infant” and 8 year-old son Jethro.
  • at #26, Dannel, 17, Mike, 13, Penney, 12, Dyner, 9, Juley, 7, and Washington Artis, 5, with John Lane. These children, of course, are Sylvania’s younger children. Sylvania (“Silvano”) herself is living next door to her sister Vicey in Wayne County with a one year-old boy named Hiram Artis.
  • at #36, Mary Artis, 27, servant in the household of Richard Baker. Who is Mary Artis, and where was she in 1850?

And in Tyson’s Marsh district:

  • Nancy, 17, Aron, 13, Richard, 11, Calvin, 9, and Rebecker Artes, 5, in the household of G.S. Peacock. Where had the oldest children been in 1850? In 1870, Calvin Artis, 20, is a farmhand in the household of Sarah Wooten, Snow Hill township, Green County. In 1880 Snow Hill township: Richard Artis, 29, Charlotte, 24, Hattie, 3, and Jessee Artis, 1. On 9 March 1876, Calvin Artis applied for a marriage license for Richard Artis, 24, son of Isom Heath and Matilda Artis, and Charlotte Ellis, 21. Matilda was said to be living at that time. Where was she in 1850 and 1860 then?
  • at #161, servant Percy Artes, 25, and her children Henry C., 1, and Thomas, 5, in the household of Murrhyer Best. In 1850, Persey Artice and Rufus Artice, both 17, were listed in the household of Martin Sauls in North Side of the Neuse, Wayne County. In 1870, Snow Hill, Greene County, Prissy Artice, 35, and son Thomas, 14.


Margaret Artis. Died 4 March 1920, Carrs township, Greene County, North Carolina. Age 70. Widow of Ed Artis. Born Greene County to Penny Speight. Buried Carr’s Farm. Informant, Tom Speight. Not found in census or other records.

Thomas Artis. Died 30 July 1941, Bullhead township, Greene County, North Carolina. Widower of Mary Artis. Born 21 December 1853 in Wayne County to John and Leathy Artis. Buried family cemetery, by C.E. Artis. Informant, F[illegible] Exum. In the 1860 census of Davis district, Wayne County: John Artis, 39, wife Lethy, 40, and children Sarah J., 13, Zachary, 11, Millie, 9, Wm. T., 7, and Betsey Artis, 4. He was the grandson of Celia Artis.

Fillis Artis. Died 28 October 1916, Ormondsville township, Greene County, North Carolina. Married. Born 1853 in Greene County to Charity Edwards. Informant, W.H. Phillips. Phyllis Artis was not free-born, but married a man whose parents were. Phyllis Lee, age 35, daughter of Jerry Edwards and Charity Coward, married Rom Artis, 27, son of Jordan Artis and Arley [Olive] Artis, in Greene County on 11 January 1897. (Romilus was born about 1868, perhaps in Lenoir County. Census records show that his father lived in Wayne.) In the 1900 census of Contentnea township, Pitt County: Rom Artis (born 1868); wife Filliss (born 1860); four sons-in-law [stepsons?] John (1885), Allen (1886), Milton (1889) and Charley Leary (1891); son-in-law(?) William Artis (1893); daughter-in-law(?) Mande Artis (1895); and mother Ollie Artis (1840.)

Henry Artis. Died 10 January 1935 in Paris, Edgar County, Illinois. Barber. Resided 437 East Court. Born 21 March 1835, Snow Hill [Greene County], North Carolina to Louis Artis and Elizabeth Bass. Widower of Gabreil Artis. In the 1870 census of Otter Creek, Vigo County, Indiana: Lewis Artis, 39, Elizabeth, 38, Lucy A., 33, Elie, 20, Peggy, 14, Thomas, 8, John, 5, and William Artis, 4 months; the first three born in North Carolina. In the 1880 census of Charleston, Coles County, Indiana: North Carolina-born Henry Artis, 41, Ohio-born Ellen Artis, 43, and others.


Olive Artis. 1832-22 May 1904, Artis cemetery, Artis Cemetery Road, Greene County.

Phillis Artis. Wife of Rom Artis. 12 March 1861-28 October 1916, Artis cemetery, Artis Cemetery Road, Greene County. See Fillis Artis, above.


Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Collateral kin: Celia Artis and family.

As noted previously, there is no known relationship between Celia Artis and my great-great-great-grandfather Adam T. Artis, though it is likely that most free colored Artises shared a common ancestor in the misty mists of time. Like, the late 17th century. Celia’s family and Adam’s family were among several sets of Artises living in northeastern Wayne County in the antebellum era, and they intermarried and otherwise interacted regularly. Here’s what I know of Celia Artis and her descendants.

Celia Artis was born just before 1800, presumably in Wayne County. Nothing is known of her parentage or early life. She married an enslaved man named Simon and gave birth to at least six children. In 1823, she gave complete control over her oldest children to two white neighbors, brothers (or father and son) Elias and Jesse Coleman, in a dangerously worded deed that exceeded the scope of typical apprenticeship indentures: This indenture this 16th day of August 1823 between Celia Artis of the County of Wayne and state of North Carolina of the one part, and Elias and Jesse Coleman of the other part (witnesseth) that I the said Celia Artis have for an in consideration of having four of my children raised in a becoming [illegible], by these presence indenture the said four children (to viz) Eliza, Ceatha, Zilpha, and Simon Artis to the said Elias and Jesse Coleman to be their own right and property until the said four children arives at the age of twenty one years old and I do by virtue of these presents give and grant all my right and power over said children the above term of time, unto the said Elias and Jesse Coleman their heirs and assigns, until the above-named children arives to the aforementioned etc., and I do further give unto the said Elias and Jesse Coleman all power of recovering from any person or persons all my right to said children — the [illegible] of time whatsoever in whereof I the said Celia Artis have hereunto set my hand and seal the day and year above written,    Celia X Artis.

Despite the “own right and property” language, Celia did not sell her children exactly, but what drove her to this extreme measure? Because she was not legally married, her children were subject to involuntary apprenticeship until age 21. This deed records her determination to guard her children from uncertain fates by placing them under the control of men she trusted, rather than those selected by the court.

Despite the deed’s verbiage, it is likely that the children continued to live with their mother during their indenture. Certainly, Celia, unlike many independent women of the era, had the wherewithal to care for them, as evidenced by her purchase of 10 acres from Spias Ward in 1833. Wayne County deeds further show purchases of 124 acres and 24 acres from W[illiam] Thompson in 1850 and 1855.

By 1840, Celia Artis was head of a household of eight free people of color in Black Creek district, Wayne County — one woman aged 36-54; three girls aged 10-23 [Eliza, Leatha, Zilpha]; one girl under 10 [unknown]; two boys aged 10-23 [Calvin and Simon]; and one boy under 10 [Thomas].

In the 1850 census, she was enumerated on the North Side of the Neuse, Wayne County, as a 50 year-old with children Eliza, 34, Zilpha, 28, Thomas, 15, and Calvin, 20, plus 6 year-old Lumiser, who was probably Eliza’s daughter. Celia is credited with owning $600 of real property (deeds for much of which went unrecorded), and the agricultural schedule for that year details her wealth:

  • Celia Artis.  50 improved acres, 700 unimproved acres, value $600. Implements valued at $25. 2 horses. 1 ass or mule. 1 ox. 21 other cattle. 40 sheep. 500 swine. 500 bushels of Indian corn. 100 lbs. of rice. 2 lbs. of tobacco. 100 lbs. of wool. 100 bushels of peas and beans. 200 bushels of sweet potatoes.

She also appears in the 1850 Wayne County slave schedule, which records her (and another free woman of color Rhoda Reed’s) ownership of their husbands:

1850 slave sched Celia ARtis

In 1860, in a surprise move, the census taker listed Simon Pig Artis, Celia’s husband, as the head of household. If he’d been freed formally, there’s no record of it. (Simon Pig’s nickname is explained here.) He is also listed as the 70 year-old owner of $800 of real property and $430 of personal property — all undoubtedly purchased by Celia. Their household included son Thomas, daughter Zilpha, and granddaughters Lumizah, 17, and Penninah, 11. On one side of the family: the widower Adam T. Artis, his three children, his sister and her child; on the other: Celia and Simon’s son Calvin, his wife Serena [maiden name Seaberry, and a cousin of Adam’s next wife Frances Seaberry], and their four children. Other neighbors included Lemuel Edmundson.

The 1863 Confederate field map below indicates “C. Artis” near Watery Branch and “L. Edmundson.” (The stars mark the creek and the towns of Stantonsburg and “Martinsville,” now Eureka.) The family’s cemetery remains on that land, as marked in the second map. (Watery Branch is perhaps a mile south along Watery Branch Road. And Diggs Chapel, presumably, is connected to the family. See Eliza Artis, below. The road visible below Celia’s name on the 1863 map was probably the precursor of Watery Branch Church Road.) Conf Field Map 2

Watery Branch

During the Civil War, both Celia Artis and her son Calvin were assessed taxes by the Confederate state government in the form of tithed crops. In December 1863, Celia had to hand over a tenth of her 2500 pounds of cured fodder to support the war effort.

celia artis conf

Neither Celia nor Simon appears in the 1870 census. It seems likely that Celia was alive for at least a few more years, however, as her estate was not opened until 1879. It was surprisingly small, suggesting that she had distributed most her land and valuables (or otherwise lost them) before her death. Son Thomas is listed as the sole heir to her $200 estate. I don’t know what became of Simon Pig.


Here’s what I know of Celia Artis’ children:

  • Eliza Artis was born circa 1816. She never married but had at least three daughters, Loumiza, Frances and Penina Artis. Descendants assert that the father of some or all of them was James Yelverton, a white farmer who lived nearby. Loumiza is known only from the 1850 and 1860 censuses. Frances was born about 1845. She never married but had at least two children, Sula and Margaret, allegedly by Wilson (or William) Diggs, whom she married in Wayne County on 15 October 1868. (Margaret’s daughters Etta and Minnie Diggs married William M. Artis and Leslie Artis, respectively, a son and grandson of Adam T. Artis. Sula’s daughter Lizzie Olivia married Leslie Artis’ brother Odell.) Penina, born about 1849, married James Newsome. Eliza’s will was filed in Wayne County:

In the Name of God Amen: I Eliza Artis of the County of Wayne and State of North Carolina being of sound mind and memory and considering the uncertainty of human life do therefore make Publish and declare this to be my last Will and testament: That is to say first after all my burial expenses are paid and discharged the residue of my estate. I give and bequeath and dispose of as follows to wit to John Newsom son of James Newsom and Penina Newsom Four Dollars to Francis Diggs all the balance of my personal and real estate that I may be in Possession of at my death during her Natural life and after the death of said Francis Diggs all of said Personal and real estate is to be equally divided between Francis Diggs’s three children Sula Artis Margrett Diggs and William Diggs Likewise I make constitute and appoint Noble Exum and George Exum to be my Executors to this my last Will and testament hereby revoking all former wills made by me In witness whereof I have hereunto subscribed my name and affixed my seal this the eleventh day of February in the year of our lord one Thousand eight hundred and Ninety  Eliza X Artice {seal} In the presence of Witnesses John H. Skinner, R.H. X Locus  Hand-written notation in margin: “See Book No 32 Page 320 Register of Deeds Office” [Wayne County Will Book 1, page 524]



  • Letha Ann Artis (the “Ceatha” above) was born about 1820 and married John Artis. They lived in the Eureka area of Wayne County and their children included Sarah Artis, Zachary/Zachariah Artis, James Artis, Mildly Artis Baker (whose grandson Richard V. Baker married Lillie Odessa Artis, daughter of Henry J.B. Artis and granddaughter of Adam T. Artis), William Thomas Artis, Elizabeth Artis Brantham, and Jackson Artis. Letha Ann died circa 1896.

I Lethy Ann Artice of Nahunta Township, State of North Carolina being of sound mind and memory, do declare this to be my last will and testament. I give and bequeath to my son James Artice Five acres of land known as my fathers place to have to hold through his natural life, after his death to Maggie Artis his daughter. But should she want to live on said land before his death, I give her a right, so to do. I give and bequeath to Luby Baker and Anna Baker the children of Mildly Baker Four acres provided Mildly Baker shall be guardian for said children until they reach their majority. I give and bequeath to Bettie Bradford and Brantham Five acres land to have and to hold their natural life afterwards to their heirs. I give and bequeath to Zachary Artice Five acres land. I give and bequeath to John and Octavius the sons of Thomas Artis my son Four acres land if they should want to sell each other all right but no one else. I give and bequeath to Zachary his fathers chest. All heirs to pay Zachary Artice for burial expenses Sarah & Jackson, before coming in possession of the property I give. I also give to Zachary the big pot, I also give him his house, no matter on whose land it falls on. Be it understood I have already given Zachary ½ acre during my life time. I also gave Thomas Two Dollars and a Bull. I also give Baker a cow and calf, Betsey two Dollars I say this to show what I have given. Betsey and Mildly I give one bed a piece, my large bed to be divided between Tom & Zachary. I also give Maggie Artice James daughter, Sarahs chest. I also give the [illegible] and gear to Scintha Ann Artice. All the heirs, with Scintha Ann take my wearing clothes also House furniture also. But should Zachary want any particular thing, as he been my protector let him have it I appoint I.F. Ormond Executor of this will. In witness whereof I Letha Ann Artice have herewith set my hand and seal This 9th day of Oct 1892   Letha Ann X Artice Subscribed by the testator in the presence of each of us and declared by her to be the last will testament Witnesses   J.H. Skinner, Noble Exum  [Wayne County Will Book 2, page 184; proved 2 January 1897, Superior Court, Wayne County]


  • Zilpha Artis was born in the 1820s. She never married and had no known children. She died in 1882, leaving this will:

Know all men by these presents that I Zilpha Artis of the County of Wayne and State of North Carolina being of sound mind and memory but considering the uncertainty of life do make and declare this my last will and testament in manner and form following that is to say. That my Executor Philip Fort shall provide for my body a decent burial according to the wishes of my relatives and friend and pay all funeral expenses together with my just debts to whomsoever due out of the money that may first come into his as a part or parcel of my estate. I give and devise to my niece Francis Diggs all of my entire lands and all my household and Kitchen furniture to have and to hold to her the said Francis Diggs for and during the time of her natural life and after her death to be equally divided between her two children Sula Artis and Margaret Diggs their heirs and assigns forever I give and bequeath to my Sister Eliza Artis the sum of fifty cents I give and bequeath to my Sister Leatha Artis the sum of fifty cents I give and bequeath to Brother Calvin Artis the sum of fifty cents And I give and bequeath to my brother Thomas Artis the sum of fifty cents And lastly I do hereby appoint and constitute Phillip Fort my lawful executor to all intents and purposes to execute this my last will and testament according to the true intent and meaning of the same and every part and clause therein hereby revoking and declaring utterly void all other wills and testaments by me heretofore made. In testimony whereof I the said Zilpha Artis do hereunto set my hand and seal this 19th day of November A.D. 1881    Zilpha X Artis {seal} Signed and sealed in the presence of B.J. Person, John B. Person [Wayne County Will Book 1, page 245; proved 20 September 1882, Probate Court, Wayne County]


  • Simon Artis. I’ve found no record of Simon after his 1823 indenture to the Colemans.


  • Calvin Artis, known as Calv Pig, was born about 1830. In 1853, he married Serena Seaberry, daughter of Theophilus and Rachel Smith Seaberry and a cousin of Adam Artis’ wife (and my great-great-great-grandmother) Frances Seaberry Artis. Their children were Martha Artis Locus, Polly Artis, James Madison Artis (who married Adam T. Artis’ oldest daughter Caroline Coley), Henry T. Artis, Nettie Artis Exum, Ellen Artis, Talitha Artis, Simon Artis, and Jeffersonia Artis. Calvin seems to have died between 1880 and 1900.



Federal population, agricultural and slave schedules;Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms, 1861-1865, National Archives and Record Administration; Deeds, Register of Deeds Office, Wayne County Courthouse, Goldsboro; Will Books, Office of Clerk of Superior Court, Wayne County Courthouse, Goldsboro.

Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Carter kin?

Several months, when I was examining delayed birth certificates filed in Wayne County, North Carolina, I asked who the A.J. Carter was listed as a cousin on Christine “Nora” Aldridge Henderson‘s birth record. Today I found a marriage license for A.J. Carter and Mallie Simmons, and it hit me suddenly that A.J. was Ammie James Carter, (1) oldest of A. Marshall and Frances Jacobs Carter’s sons, (2) thus, nephew of “Papa” Jesse A. Jacobs Jr., and (3) brother-in-law of Beulah Aldridge Carter, my great-grandfather Tom Aldridge‘s sister.

But how in the world was Ammie Carter Nora Aldridge Henderson’s cousin? “Play” cousin? Or blood?

Ammie Carter, born about 1881, was the son of Archy Marshall Carter and Margaret Frances Jacobs. His mother Frances was the sister of Jesse A. Jacobs Jr., who reared my grandmother, and the daughter of Jesse Sr. and Abigail Gilliam (or Gilliard) Jacobs. Jesse and Abigail’s parentage is unclear, but they are believed to have been born in Cumberland or perhaps Sampson County. As far as I know, neither was related to Nora Aldridge’s parents, John W. Aldridge and Louvicey Artis.

Marshall Carter (1860-1922) was the son of William and Mary Cox Carter of Sampson County. I know little about them. Their census records are muddled by duplicate, but conflicting, entries, and most of their children seem to disappear from the record. An exception: daughter Virginia Ann “Annie” Carter (1863-1930) married Hardy Cox. They were close enough to Sarah Henderson Jacobs that my grandmother called them Cousin Annie and Cousin Hardy Cox. Was Annie Carter Cox really a cousin?)

And there’s this: on Sarah H. Jacobs’ 1938 death certificate, her mother’s maiden name is listed as Margaret Carter. When I asked my grandmother about it, she did not know why. I believe Sarah’s mother, who was otherwise known as Margaret Balkcum, was the sister of Mary Eliza Balkcum Aldridge. Is the Aldridge-Carter connection actually via their Balkcum side? Was their unknown father — a man of color — a Carter?

William Carter was the son of Michael Carter (circa 1805-circa 1875) and Patience, maiden name unknown, of Sampson County, whom I know only through the 1860 and 1870 censuses, in which they are enumerated in Sampson County. They both seem to have died before 1880. My lack of knowledge about Robert Aldridge or Mary Eliza Balkcum Aldridge‘s parents makes me hesitate to say that either (or neither) was related to Michael or Patience Carter. The same holds for Mary Cox Carter’s parents, whoever they might have been.

In short, for now, I have no answers.

Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

The case for Vicey, Sylvania and Daniel Artis as siblings.

I thought I’d posted this earlier, but apparently not. Here is my case for Vicey Artis Williams, Sylvania Artis Lane and Daniel Artis as siblings.

  • Vicey Artis was born circa 1810; Sylvania Artis, circa 1820; and Daniel Artis, circa 1820.
  • None were listed in census records prior to 1850.
  • In the 1850 census, Vicey and her younger children were listed in a household between Silas Bryant and John Lane in Bull Head, Greene County.
  • In 1850, Sylvania and her younger children were listed in a household on the other side of John Lane in Bull Head.
  • In 1850, Daniel was not listed.
  • In 1853, Daniel Artis bought 125 acres of land from Silas Bryant adjacent to Bryant and John Lane.
  • In 1860, Vicey and Sylvania were listed next door to one another in Davis district, Wayne County. Six of Sylvania’s children were listed in the household of John Lane in Bull Head, Greene County, less than five miles away.
  • In 1860, Daniel was listed in the household of John Lane in Bull Head.
  • On 28 August 1866, Vicey Artis and Solomon Williams, Sylvania Artis and Guy Lane, and Daniel Artis and Eliza Faircloth registered their cohabitations before justice of the peace Henry J. Sauls, probably near present-day Eureka (then Sauls Crossroads.)
  • Vicey’s children include a daughter Jane.
  • Sylvania’s children include Jane, Daniel, and Mariah.
  • Daniel’s children include a daughter Mariah.
  • Sylvania’s oldest son Morrison Artis, born about 1837, married Vicey’s daughter Jane Artis, born about 1833, on 27 November 1862. Their children included a son Daniel.
Free People of Color, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Religion

Jonah Williams and the Turner Swamp Primitive Baptist Association.

I’ve blogged often about Jonah Williams, prominent farmer, respected preacher, and brother of my great-great-great-grandfather Adam T. Artis. I was pleased, then, to find copies of the minutes of the early annual sessions of the Turner Swamp Primitive Baptist Association, which oversaw several churches that Jonah helped establish and/or lead. Jonah participated in five sessions before his death in 1915, and the minutes of two survive. I’ve extracted pages from those documents here.

JWms Turner Swamp 1

London’s Church was just north of the town of Wilson (in what would now be inside city limits.) The church is most closely associated with London Woodard, an enslaved man who was purchased by his free-born wife, Penny Lassiter. Just after the Civil War, London founded an African-American Baptist church, which seems to have been the precursor to the London’s Church organized under the Primitive Baptist umbrella in 1897.

As shown below, Jonah was involved in the establishment of nearly every church in the Turner Swamp Association, including Turner Swamp (1897), Barnes (1898), Little Union (1899), and Rocky Mount (1908). Turner Swamp still meets at or near its original location just north of Eureka in Wayne County. Barnes is likely Barnes’ Chapel Church, now located at 1004 Railroad Street in Wilson. [CORRECTION: Barnes Chapel was close to Stantonsburg, in southwest Wilson County.] I had never heard of Little Union church, but a Google search turned up a list of churches within 15 miles of “Bel-Air Forest (subdivision), North Carolina,” Little Union among them. (Which is a little spooky because that’s the neighborhood in which I grew up and I didn’t input that reference point.) Unfortunately, the site’s map is blank. However, another search disclosed a recent obituary that referred to the decedent’s efforts to rebuild Little Union Primitive Baptist Church in Town Creek, North Carolina. I have not been able to find current references to Rocky Mount Primitive Baptist Church.

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Jonah moved from the Eureka area about 10 miles north to Wilson in the late 1890s. Though I knew of his association with Turner Swamp, I was not aware until finding this document that he had also been pastor at London, much less two other churches.

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Romans 7:4 — Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

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The approximate locations of the churches in Turner Swamp Primitive Baptist Association. Top to bottom: Rocky Mount, Little Union, London’s, Barnes’ and Turner Swamp. As the crow flies, the distance from Rocky Mount to Eureka, where Turner Swamp is located, is about 30 miles.

TS Ass map

This news brief probably made reference to baptisms Jonah conducted at London Church, which stood a few miles from the south bank of Contentnea Creek.


Wilson Daily Times, 6 June 1911.

Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Misinformation Monday, no. 10.

Another example of the pitfalls of unquestioning acceptance of federal population schedules at face value. What you see (1) may not be what it seems and (2) is not all there is. Here, I follow my great-great-great-grandfather Adam T. Artis over the arc of his life, as recorded in census records.

Adam Artis was born in 1831 to a free woman, Vicey Artis, and her enslaved husband, Solomon Williams, most likely in Wayne or Greene Counties, North Carolina. In the 1840 census of one of those counties, he, his mother and siblings are anonymous hashmarks under the heading “free colored people” alongside the name of a white head of household.

The 1850 census of Greene County is the first record of Adam’s existence:

AArtis 1850 Greene

White farmer Silas Bryant is the head of household. The other Bryants are presumably his wife and children. The significance of Adam Artess, Jane Artess and Charity Artess’ names listed below requires knowledge outside the four corners of the page. As I learned via subsequent research, Jane and Charity were Adam’s sisters. (Their mother and remaining siblings were listed next door at #429.) Though no bonds or other indenture documents survive, it is most likely that the Artis children were involuntarily apprenticed to Bryant until age 21 by the Greene County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions. Adam’s age is correct, so I assume that Jane’s and Charity’s are, too. The censustaker evinced some hesitation in describing Adam’s color, appearing to superimpose a B (black) over an M (mulatto.) This is a matter of some concern to descendants who deny that he was of African descent. No photographs of Adam survive, but his great-granddaughter D.B. told me she recalls seeing one in her childhood. It was later stored in a barn and ruined by rainwater. Adam, she said, was brown-skinned. Mulattohood was in the eye of the beholder, but I think it is safe to say that Adam had considerable African ancestry.

AArtis 1860 NNeuse Wayne

The 1860 census of the North Side of the Neuse River, Wayne County, tells a nuanced story. This entry contains the sole census reference to Adam’s skills as a carpenter, probably gained during his apprenticeship to Bryant. The $200 in personal property probably consisted mostly of the tools of his trade, and the $100 value of real property reflects his early land purchases. (I found a deed in Wayne County for Adam’s sale of ten acres to his brother-in-law John Wilson in 1855. The sale was a buyback, but Adam never recorded a deed for the original purchase.) Adam was a widower in 1860, and Kerney, Noah and Mary Jane were his children by deceased wife Lucinda Jones Artis. They were not his only children, however. His oldest two, Cain and Caroline, were enslaved alongside their mother Winnie Coley, and are not named in any census prior to 1870.) Jane Artis was Adam’s sister. Her age is about right, though his is off by a year or so. Her one month-old infant may have been daughter Cornelia, who is listed in the 1870 census as born in 1860. I’ve included two lines of the next household to highlight a common pitfall — making assumptions about relationships based on shared surnames. Though they were Artises and lived next door, Celia and Simon were not related to Adam Artis. At least, not in any immediate way. (Ultimately, nearly all Artises trace their lineage to a common ancestor in 17th-century Tidewater Virginia.) Adam’s son Jesse Artis testified directly to the matter in the trial in Coley v. Artis: “I don’t know that Tom and I are any kin. Just by marriage.”

So far, we’ve found basically accurate, if deceptively simple, census entries. 1870 is where the trouble starts. There’s this:

AArtis 1870 holden 1

But wait. There’s this, too:

AArtis 1870 holden 2

The first entry is found in the enumeration of Holden township, Wayne County. The second is in Nahunta. The first was taken 18 August by William R. Perkins. The second, 23 September. By William R. Perkins.


I can’t begin to explain why Perkins rode the backlanes of northeast Wayne County twice and — in two different handwritings — recorded the same people living in the same houses as residents of different townships. Substantively, though, with a couple of exceptions, the two households attributed to Adam Artis are quite consistent. Adam and his wife Frances (Seaberry, whom he married in 1861) are shown with nine children whose ages are identical in both listings. The last six children were born to Frances, and some of their names take a gentle mauling between records. The oldest child was Ida, which is close to “Idar,” but not at all to the very modern-sounding “Jaden.” And who was Octavia/Tavious, a seven year-old male? Process of comparison and elimination identifies him as Napoleon Artis, often called Dock. Was Octavius his middle name? I’ve ever seen it used in any other place.

Fast forward ten years to 1880:

AArtis 1880 Nahunta 1880

Adam is again a widower, as wife Frances died shortly after the birth of son Jesse. Daughter Eliza is helping care for her eight siblings, plus grandbaby Frank, whose mother or father I have never been able to identify. (I have not even found clear evidence of Frank in any later record.) This living situation was not tenable, and Adam married again that very year to Amanda Aldridge, his son-in-law’s sister. Tragically, Adam and Amanda’s marriage was never recorded in a census record as she died days after the birth of her last child, Amanda Alberta, in 1899. Thus, Adam is a widower once more in 1900:

AArtis 1900

“Artice” is an alternate spelling of Artis seldom used by Artises themselves, but occasionally adopted by those recording them. In this record, two of Adam’s children with Frances, Walter and William, were still unmarried and living at home, but the remaining children are Amanda’s. Don’t be fooled by the absence of the infant Alberta. She survived her mother’s untimely death and was taken in by her half-sister Louvicey Artis Aldridge, who, presumably, nursed her along her own babies.

Adam remarried in 1903. The 1910 census accurately reflects his four legal marriages. (His informal relationship with Winnie Coley is omitted.) His latest (and last) bride, Katie Pettiford,  was 50+ years his junior. All of his older children have left (or fled) the nest except 12 year-old Annie Deliah Artis, whose status as “husband’s daughter” is carefully noted. Alphonzo Pinkney Artis was Adam’s last surviving child, though Katie reported giving birth to two others. Alberta was still with John and Vicey Aldridge — listed as “Elberta,” a “granddaughter,” speaking of misinformation — in their household at the other end of Wayne County in Brogden township. (Family stories say that this arrangement ended unhappily when Alberta learned, in her early teens, that she was not, in fact, Vicey and John Aldridge‘s child.)

1910 AArtis Nahunta Wayne

There is no 1920 census entry for Adam T. Artis. This father of nearly 30 children (23 of whom are listed with him in census records) and husband or partner of five (only two of whom show up in the census) died the 11th day of February, 1919.